SOQUEL — From the jarring sudden loss of his own life savings in the Bernie Madoff investment scandal of 2008, nationally renowned author, speaker and progressive activist John Robbins has birthed a new book, “The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less.”
It is a practical guidebook aimed at giving people tools to sort through their wants and needs and gain better perspective on the real cost of blind consumerism.
“The New Good Life,” which went on sale Tuesday, is as much a sweeping commentary on growing American materialism as it is a resource of household penny-savings eco-tips, a spiritual handbook for peace and a place to find a good recipe for Split Pea Cabbage Soup.
Robbins said he wanted to show both the interconnectedness of individual decisions and global policies. It’s not a book about buying a lot of stuff at cheap prices, but about consuming less and consuming more intelligently. Set against a backdrop of growing global economic insecurity, increasing debt and wealth disparity, the new good life requires a different set of tools and a different way of looking at things, he says.
“I wanted to make it very nuts and bolts practical and at the same time show how things were in the context of the bigger picture,” Robbins said Monday from his home in Soquel.
Robbins, the author of numerous bestsellers such as “Diet For a New America”, “Reclaiming Our Health” and “May All Be Fed,” will be speaking tonight at Bookshop Santa Cruz and at Capitola Book Cafe on June 29.
“We’re all tied together in an insane world, in a world of great sorrow and great turmoil,” he said. “I’ve written this book for people who want to find some solid ground from which they live in the times to come.”
Robbins’ oft-told personal story includes turning his back on the family Baskin Robbins ice cream empire as a young man to pursue a calling less focused on financial profit and more focused on health and environmental stewardship. He said he’s been wealthy at different times of his life since then, but he was not prepared for the terror that followed from losing nearly everything, along with thousands of others, in Madoff’s financial Ponzi scheme 18 months ago.
“We were in a big trouble very quickly,” he said
Suddenly his family — his wife, son, daughter-in-law and two young grandchildren who live together in a home in the Santa Cruz Mountains — didn’t have enough money to take care of the basics and had to survive on loans from friends. Family members took on more work, they brought in tenants. Robbins himself set about designing a new book project and received an advance — all of which helped the family get back on track. Rather than spend time angry, Robbins and his family focused on a strategy.
“I had thought that I would feel OK at any level of financial security but the shock of it and the implications of it for my family, including the twins grandchildren … Children change it all,” he said. “When terror hits at the level I was experiencing it, I had to reflect just one breath at a time.”
They sold electronics and furniture.
“We had to cut our expenses to bone,” he said.
The challenge was to see it as “a growth opportunity,” which, Robbins concedes, sometimes was a phrase that included an unprintable adjective as well. The question that gets reawakened is, “What are our real needs?”
He hopes people will redefine success so that it doesn’t focus solely on financial status.
“My hope is that people will see it the book as a practical support,” Robbins said, “that they’ll find it useful to live a life with deeper meaning and a higher quality of life while freeing themselves increasingly from the materialistic trance.”
IF YOU GO
John Robbins Book Reading
WHAT: A reading by John Robbins, author of ‘The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less’
WHEN: 7:30-9 p.m. today
WHERE: Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
COST: Event is free, while book is $25 plus tax.
OTHER: A second local reading is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 29 at Capitola Book Cafe. See http://www.capitolabookcafe.com/ for information.
INFORMATION: 423-0900; http://www.bookshopsantacruz.com
This article was first published here.